The Mohawk people are a part of the great Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest union of free nations on the earth.
Ours are a people who define life as a blessing and for this, we engage in a series of thanksgiving ceremonies that follow the lunar year for a total of 13. During these communal rituals, we sing, dance and share the bounties of harvest and the hunt.
Prior to each event, we begin when a chosen speaker will recite the Ohenten Kariwatekwehn "the words which come before all else" in which we acknowledge elements of creation which in turn represent all that lives upon this earth, into the sky and beyond.
The abridged version here may be used by all those who desire to express their gratitude on Thanksgiving Day or at any other special occasion.
We express our thanks to our Mother Earth, who provides us with all we need to live upon her.
We express our thanks to all the waters of the world, for we cannot exist without the lifeblood of Mother Earth.
We express our thanks to the animals which live within the earth's waters for carrying out their duties in harmony with natural law.
We express our thanks to the insect beings which are upon and within the earth.
We express our thanks to the animal beings and their leader the deer, that we are grateful for sustaining us.
We express our thanks to the medicine plants which give us their energy that we may be healed.
We express our thanks to the food plants which nourish our bodies, particularly the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash.
We express our thanks to the trees of the world and to the Maple tree, the leader of all of its kind, whose sap renews our spirits and bodies.
We express our thanks to the Four Winds without whom life would not exist.
We express our thanks to the Thunders of the world who carry the rain and energize the earth for our seeds.
We express our thanks to our eldest brother the Sun who brings heat and light to the world.
We express our thanks to our grandmother Moon, who gives us light and controls the movement of water on the earth.
We express our thanks to the stars who give us beauty and direction and to them we return when our spirits leave this earth.
We express our thanks to the spirit beings who guide and protect us.
We express our thanks for the messengers and teachers who remind us of our duties upon this earth.
We express our thanks for those yet unborn that we are to ensure they also have clean waters, clean air and fertile soils.
We express our thanks to the Creator for the blessings of life and the gift which each one of us is to each other and the world.
The intent is for us to place aside from that which obscures humility and kindness and from these words, will come a commitment to renew our trust relationship with the natural world.
So be it our minds.
Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian and was the editor of the journal Akwesasne Notes. He resides on Iroquois territory in central New York State. His address: Box 450, Oneida Castle, NY. E-mail: Kanentiio@aol.com.